THEY say that a friend in need is a friend indeed and it is because of this notion that today’s Face In The Crowd has hundreds of friends all over the island and then some.
Terrencia Gaillard is the Director General of the St. Lucia Red Cross and is a rare gem of a human being who looks beyond wealth statuses, looks and reputation and sees the beauty in every soul from the elites to the lowliest of beggars on the streets.
The Soufriere born mother of four and grandmother of one has devoted her entire life to voluntary work with people from all walks of life.
Gaillard lives off her passion through the Red Cross for being that Good Samaritan that so many are in need of for over two decades and she believes that she is right where she needs to be.
Judging from the reputation that she has gained amongst the long trail of lives that she has helped, it is evident that she is indeed in the right place.
The VOICE: First of all, give me a general idea of your love for and your life in voluntary work.
Terrencia: I’ve been doing a lot of voluntary work even before I worked with the Red Cross. I worked with the blind and homeless people. I was a chartered member of the Kiwanians Club which was the female leg of the Kiwanis Club. I fed the homeless and still do with the Red Cross from the streets of Castries because we have a feeding programme which I initiated. I talk to everybody because like the Good Lord said; everybody you see on the streets is a picture of Him and you see Him in everybody so therefore, I talk to everybody. My children tell a joke about me, they say; “When you die, all the zombies will come to your funeral because zombies are your friends,” because I always stop to just hear what they have to say. They are people too. They need love too, they need people to care for them and sometimes just a warm hello can make them feel different so I don’t bother when people stop and see me talking to the vagrants on the street…that is who I am, I talk to everybody. I have friends in high places also but the man on the street who comes to me with a story, that is where my passion lies. Making a difference in their lives you know, somebody who needed hearing, somebody just to talk to, I will just allow them to talk and I wouldn’t interrupt or anything like that.
The VOICE: Where did that passion come from?
Terrencia: I suppose from an early age because I did a lot of guiding…I was a Girl Guide. I grew up with that passion to be prepared and was taught to love humanity. From the Guides, I became a Ranger so in growing up, I was in all of that and I was very close to the Catholic Church so there was Legion of Mary and all these things that you do in Church. I’ve been working with the Red Cross now for 27 years and started in administration then went into coordinating in the event of disasters; I was on the ball with my volunteers…I am not alone in providing that kind of service and I just love helping people.
The VOICE: How deep does your passion for humanity go genuinely?
Terrencia: When I look around St. Lucia and I see the men and women on the streets, I just wish there was something that I could do to take them off the streets and shelter them from harm. Every time I see them lying down on the concrete with rain, thunder and lightning, I just wish there was something that I could do. I just wish that there was something that could be done for those people.
The VOICE: What has been your best or most memorable experience with the Red Cross?
Terrencia: Way back in 1989 I went out to do hurricane relief. It was hurricane Hugo. I worked in Antigua, St. Kitts and Montserrat and went to Montserrat, where 90% of the island was devastated. People were leaving the island by boat, helicopter, any way they could. Whilst helping out, it really struck me that we are nothing. When we saw these huge concrete buildings, old churches and all that was destroyed and to be there on this relief effort was really my best experience. It was work with long hours and no electricity, water or anything but I was happy to be part of that programme.
The VOICE: Now I can imagine that you have seen your fair share of devastation and hardship on the job but can you remember your worst experience?
Terrencia: During my worst experience, I thought I was dying. Again coming out of Montserrat after the volcano erupted, I was in a river boat leaving to go to Antigua and I was told that I turned all colours. It was bad and I swore never to ride a boat again. I was sick and they gave me this motion sickness tablet but there was no water so my tongue and throat went numb. I somehow overcame that and went back to the island but on a better boat. You know what I hate? That there are people who just never have enough. I hate that you go out there and you help people out but they’re never satisfied…they never have enough and they want more, more, more. Greed, that’s what I hate.
The VOICE: What are some of the tallest hurdles that you are faced with?
Terrencia: Sometimes, not being able to deliver the assistance that you want to give. For instance, a person has lost everything and the most important thing is shelter and sometimes we are not able to provide them with the shelter…that’s sometimes difficult for us and people expect so much from the Red Cross and we just can’t give everything. We can give the immediate needs like food and clothing but when it comes to shelter, most times we are not able to give that. It can be very painful and you can only advise them to go here or there.
The VOICE: How does it feel go bear the title and responsibility of being the nation’s Good Samaritan
Terrencia: It feels good to know that you’re able to give a helping hand and to know that because of your actions, a person can go to bed with a full stomach. Some people appreciate that for life and in the end you feel good. No matter where I go, someone knows me so I’m always saying that if I fall on the streets, somebody will pick me up. Sometimes I forget them but they remember me. When that happens, I say that I must be doing something good.
The VOICE: Are there many dangers that come with the job?
Terrencia: As always, dangers are everywhere. Anything can happen but luckily we are always covered. The Red Cross makes sure that every worker and volunteer that goes out in its name is insured from the time they leave here. I haven’t come across anyone who has faced any dangers.
The VOICE: What kind of person would you say that this job is for?
Terrencia: You must be committed. You must be available 24/7 because sometimes I get calls at 2:00-3:00 a.m. and I must respond. You must be hard working and know how to think on your feet and be especially compassionate. This is no desk job. You must be out on the field and host lots of fundraisers because we get no funding so we have to be working and are always out there to keep the organisation. In the event of a national disaster, we have the International Red Cross to help us but other than that, we have to raise the funds for ourselves.